Supreme Court Strikes Down Race in Admissions Policies
June 30, 2023

​The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday tossed aside more than four decades of precedent that has allowed colleges and universities to pursue the critical interest of a diverse student body through the consideration of race and ethnicity as part of a holistic admissions process.

As ACE President Ted Mitchell said in a statement about the decision handed down in the high-profile cases brought by Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: “By denying colleges and universities an essential tool for inviting students with diverse perspectives and experiences to their campuses, this ruling will harm the educational experience of all students.”

However, Mitchell stressed that “colleges and universities will redouble efforts to pursue our missions, which absolutely requires maintaining equitable and diverse campuses. We remain steadfast in our commitment to provide inclusive and welcoming educational environments for all our students and their communities.” Read Mitchell’s full statement here.

July 6 on dotEDU Live, ACE Vice President and General Counsel Peter McDonough and Madelyn Wessel from Hogan Lovells, both former campus general counsels who were part of the team that wrote the amicus brief ACE submitted on behalf or nearly 40 higher education associations, will be discussing the case. Click here to register.

President Biden and Secretary of Education Miguel A. Cardona also criticized the ruling, with Cardona saying that the Department of Education would continue to work with college presidents and other officials to help college students.

"We're going to find strategies that work that are lawful and follow the Supreme Court decision, but are committed to the goal of making sure that we're providing opportunities for students who maybe historically haven't had those opportunities, and that we're providing opportunities for students, not based on wealth or privilege, but on the their ability to be successful in an agile learning environment at the university level,” Cardona said.

In that vein, the White House released a fact sheet announcing “Actions to Promote Educational Opportunity and Diversity in Colleges and Universities.”

In the ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for himself and five other justices, said that "nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant's discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise,” he warned that “universities may not simply establish through application essays or other means the regime we hold unlawful today.”

In blistering dissents, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson characterized their conservative colleagues on the Supreme Court as ignoring the persistent presence of racism in the United States. See this NBC News story.

Sotomayor described the court's ruling as one that “rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress.”

By insisting that obvious truths about racial inequality be ignored, Jackson said, the court's majority is preventing "our problem-solving institutions from directly addressing the real import and impact of 'social racism' and 'government-imposed racism,'" using phrases from (Justice Clarence) Thomas' opinion.

​dotEDU Live: The Supreme Court’s Ruling on Race and Admissions

Join us Thursday, July 6 at 1 p.m. ET for a discussion with Hogan Lovells Senior Counsel Madelyn Wessel and ACE Vice President and General Counsel Peter McDonough.

Register Now